For such a burly and utilitarian fabric, Harris Tweed evokes a great deal of romantically nostalgic feelings and the recent BBC4 series, Tweed captured this feeling wonderfully. We caught up with the director of the series, Ian Denver in September and his love and enthusiasm for this iconic textile was contagious. I had a need for tweed. Denver declared that he had "always loved and worn tweed - when the rest of my generation were getting in to pins and bondage pants, I was in Oxfam buying old Harris." Regular readers will know that I rarely fair well at second hand stores so rather than go on a fruitless quest trawling through the usual vintage store rails, I decided to go further afield. Charlie Casely-Hayford previously recommended Hornets in Kensington. I've been meaning to venture south of the river for some time now and now my visit had a purpose, a mission.
Casely-Hayford described Hornets as "a hidden gem" which "is great for any gentleman on the search for second-hand English gentry attire." I am undoubtedly such a gentleman today. Long-established in Kensington, the trio of shops are bursting with quality tweed, serge, worsted and cavalry twill. I am told that at any given time the Hornet's range offers over two hundred tweed jackets (from £59), ranging from one to forty years old. Where better to find my Harris Tweed than the tweediest shop in the capital?
Harris Tweed jacket from Hornets, red corduroy shirt from Uniqlo and mustard scarf from COS, Unconditional wool trousers.
I can confirm that the stores are packed full of second hand English gentry attire tucked away in the side streets of Kensington. These are the places to find nice little pieces which will add a bit of class, pomp and colour to your everyday outfit. A Harris Tweed jacket certainly ticks all of these boxes. After disturbing the wonderfully attired shop keep mid hoovering, I went about my business of finding the right tweed for me. The rails are well stocked and well organised and I soon found my jacket. Yes, a few alterations are needed but in my eyes it is perfection. The colours are deceptively beautiful. A Harris Tweed yarn will routinely contain seven or eight different coloured wools, which are all blended together and then spun to create an amazingly rich texture of colour. I am going to have a lot of fun picking up the colours of the tweed in my shirts and accessories.
This a tweed still woven by pedal-powered looms in the homes of Scottish sheep herders out in the outermost fringe of the British Isles. It has been this way since 1846. I now understand the history and the provenance of the cloth. There is something quite special about the Isle of Harris, Lewis and that northern chain of Hebridean islands. The materials and the colours are redolent of the sea, and the grass, the rugged life, the farming. As I watched the first show from the Tweed series and became frustrated by the plight of this famous tweed, I soon fell for its charms. I'm so pleased that I own a piece of this craft.
Harris Tweed jacket from Hornets, red corduroy shirt from Uniqlo and mustard scarf from COS.